Education
Teachers on strike march outside of Foster High School on Tuesday, September 5, 2018, in Tukwila.
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Teachers on strike march outside of Foster High School on Tuesday, September 5, 2018, in Tukwila.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Why are so many teachers on strike? A brief primer

It’s a big year for teacher strikes – but why? The short answer is that districts are getting more money from the state – and teachers want in.

Which districts in the Seattle-area are on strike?

Teachers in Tukwila, Puyallup, Stanwood and Tumwater went on strike Wednesday morning.

Washington state gave districts lots more money to pay for education – but how much?

$2 billion!

For years, school districts have complained the state does not give them enough money to educate kids. The state gave districts a set dollar amount per kid – but that didn’t cover school nurses or librarians or administration. As a result, schools had to rely on property taxes. That was okay for wealthy school districts, but tougher on poorer districts that couldn’t rely on property taxes.

In June, the state Supreme Court ruled on the McCleary case, which addressed this dilemma. The high court told Washington state to fully fund public schools.

Lawmakers didn’t, however, say how much of that money should be spent on teachers. Hence the strikes.

Money is green and the grass is greener.

Some district have given their teachers double digit increases — for instance Shoreline teachers got 24.2 percent — which motivated teachers in districts where they haven’t yet settled their contract.

At least 30 school districts have already come to agreements with unions, said Rich Wood with the Washington Education Association, the state’s teachers union.  

"The administrations are providing raises in the double-digit percentages, and that's what's possible in every school district,” Wood said. “Unfortunately in some school districts superintendents are just simply making excuses."

Support staff on Bainbridge Island are also seeing a big raise – 18.2 percent across the board. That’s the highest reported raise for support staff so far, according to the WEA. Top pay will be $52 an hour. 

Other raises include 22.2 percent for Coupeville (Whidbey Island) teachers, where the starting salary will be $53,444.

Edmonds teachers will get an 18.3 percent raise, with a starting salary of $62,688. Top salaries reach $120,000 — but veteran teachers could earn more, as that does not include additional pay from coaching sports or supervising clubs.

The skinny on Seattle.

Seattle teachers could still go on strike, although they reached a tentative agreement over the weekend. Seattle’s fight won’t end with union negotiations – the district will be pushing for legislative change.

Jerry Cornfield of Everett's Daily Herald told KUOW’s Angela King that state law now limits how much wealthy districts can raise through local levies. Those big districts and unions will be working to push through changes in the legislature in 2019.

 “Seattle is one of those districts that wants to regain some of its ability to raise money from local property taxes,” he said.